LIMA — It’s been quite a turnaround.
Lima Locos outfielder A.J. Flores has gone from glacier cold to scorching hot in a matter of a few weeks.
Flores continued to sizzle on Sunday, going 4 for 5 in the second game, including drilling a game-winning, walk-off RBI single to left to lift the Locos to a 4-3, 12-inning win over Licking County at Simmons Field.
The win gave the Locos a split of the doubleheader after Licking County won the first game, 9-4.
In the home 12th with one out, Jose Gonzalez singled and Shawn Sanders singled. Tyler Grogg was hit by a pitch for the 13th time this year to load the bases.
Up stepped Flores, who lined a 2-2 pitch into left field to bring home Gonzalez with the game-winning run.
“He threw me a low curve, I was a little out in front, but I tried to keep my hands back and I poked it right through,” Flores said.
The fourth-place Locos stand 18-13. Second-place Licking County is 22-14. The Locos are now 1-3 against the Settlers this season.
Flores went 6 for 9 with a double and two RBIs for the day. After hitting under around .175 in June, his batting average now stands at a team-leading .358 (19 for 53) with 10 RBIs.
Flores said he’s been working on his swing this summer.
“One thing I’ve been working on this summer with Chad (coach Ehrnsberger) is instead of having a big hitch with my arms, I’ve let my bat on my shoulder and go right to a load. It eliminates movement.”
Added Ehrnsberger, “He’s put in a ton of work and shortened his swing. He’s absolutely on fire these last two weeks.”
Gonzalez also had a big second game. He went 2 for 4 with two RBIs.
The Locos entered the home ninth trailing 3-2. With one out, Jose Cruz doubled off the left-center field fence. Matt Britton singled to put runners at first and third.
Gonzalez put down a perfect suicide squeeze to tie the game at 3.
Since the All-Star break, the Locos are playing 21 games in 16 days. Starting on Sunday, they will play 11 games in the final seven days. That’s why the Locos have reached out and signed more pitching.
Both Locos’ starters on Sunday made their first appearance of the year.
In the second game, Connor Slavich (Purdue) threw six strong innings. He gave up six hits, one run and struck out five. Slavich threw 67 pitches, 53 for strikes.
“I knew nothing about Connor Slavich, but if this is what he is as a pitcher, I’m real happy to have him,” Ehrnsberger said.
He was followed by Tyler Murphy, who picked up the win with six innings of relief. He gave up two runs, on earned, on five hits. He struck out three and walked one. Murphy threw 88 pitches, 62 for strikes.
“He (Murphy) got stronger as he went,” Ehrnsberger said.
“I felt my change-up was working the best. I didn’t have much power behind my fastball,” Murphy said. “That was key to my success, plus my defense.”
In the opener, Licking County’s Vinny Rodriguez went 3 for 3 with a home run and five RBIs to power the Settlers.
Travis Clark (Bluffton/Lima Central Catholic) hadn’t pitched this summer and was signed on Saturday. He threw strikes, but left a few pitches up in the zone. He went four innings, giving up nine runs, eight earned. He struck out three and walked one. Clark threw 88 pitches, 57 for strikes.
Licking County also got home runs from Josh Carpenter and Brandon Kregel in the opener.
Locos notes: The Locos’ recent signings were pitchers Travis Clark (Bluffton/Lima Central Catholic), Garrett Scott (Tiffin) and Connor Slavich (Purdue). Dropped from the roster were pitcher Kaleb Ort (Aquinas), infielder Jeremy Hyde (Montevallo) and infielder Seth Bancroft (Georgia State and College). Ort injured his arm. … Locos left fielder Tyler Grogg, who recently set the GLCL single-season stolen base record, leads the league in stolen bases (36) … Will Solomon ranks seventh in ERA (1.45), but he’s sidelined with an elbow injury. Keaton Baker is eighth (1.54). … The Locos are at Lake Erie at 7 p.m. today. … The Locos have lifted their team batting average to .267, which leads the league. They were hitting .192 after the first 10 games.